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Career Success Starts with a Plan

It’s easy to get lost in our dreams and expectations of a rewarding career. Perhaps we imagine ourselves sitting in a big chair and collecting a large paycheck. Maybe we see ourselves helping the community, doing our part to change the world. Or our vision could be more basic: to find simple harmony in whatever path we choose.   

During Tuesday’s NextGen session entitled “How to Set Goals for the Career You Want,” GovLoop heard from Merrick Krause, the Deputy Chief Human Capital Officer and Director of Human Capital Strategy at the General Services Administration’s Office of Human Resources Management.

Krause has a long title, but the advice he offered was straightforward: If we want to make our dreams come true, we need to set goals. “You need to own your career,” he said. “No one will manage it for you and no one cares more than you do.” And without a plan, it’s just luck if you reach your goal.

Work Backward from Where You Want to End

Krause believes that career planning starts by deciding where you want to be, what position you ultimately want to have, and then working backward to determine what steps will get you there. 

  • For instance, do you want to run a big government agency? Then you’ll need to be a senior manager before that, and before that, you’ll need to be a second-level supervisor. Before reaching even that position, however, perhaps you’ll need to distinguish yourself by overseeing a high-priority project, and so on and so on.

Consider what skills and training you’ll need, don’t get discouraged, and understand that your interests may change over time. “The further in the future you look, the fuzzier it may be,” Krause advised.

And write down your career plan, he said. If handwritten words aren’t your thing, type your plan into a computer. The point is that you need something to look at and amend over the course of months and years.

Make Progress Day-by-Day

Krause offered tips for making daily progress toward your career goal, including:

  • Seeking your supervisor’s input, listening, and communicating clearly year-round
  • Using your supervisor’s feedback to help guide your path
  • Connecting your performance review directly to your career plan by evaluating each performance measure and sending your written self-evaluations to your supervisor
  • Asking for training that you need and/or desire
  • Volunteering for special projects, and sharing your progress with your supervisor

Being Outstanding Is Not Enough

It’s important to be amazingly good in your current role, of course. “If you’re outstanding at your current job, it makes your argument for a promotion even stronger,” Krause explained. But people need to advocate for themselves to really get ahead.

  • Have a tight sales pitch that you practice — an elevator speech regarding how your skills align with the agency’s mission — and keep it to a few minutes.
  • Consider switching agencies or branches of government for varied experience.
  • Recognize that “you can’t be expected to get a promotion by just sitting in your chair.”

GovLoop asked webinar attendees whether or not they create an annual career plan. Above is what they said.

Suggestions for the Disabled

Krause said people should disclose certain disabilities — anything that might affect job performance, so the employee can point to that disclosure if there are questions in the future. He said that some disabilities are obvious anyway, such as when a deaf job candidate needs an interpreter to participate in an interview.

“But if the disability doesn’t affect your job, then [disclosing it] is completely personal,” Krause commented.

Closing Thought

As you chart your course, keep in mind that some things are beyond your control. “Don’t expect the boss to change,” Krause said. “Either you change or you move.”

Interested in more NextGen trainings? Visit https://www.nextgengovt.com.

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Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

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